Illuminated Books & Manuscripts

There's something special about holding illuminated books and manuscripts in your hands. The ornate pages take you back to a time when everything was handcrafted. You'll find a multitude of these collections at AbeBooks, ranging from gently used to exquisitely preserved. They're unique and engaging peeks into key ideas and moments across centuries.

The art of illuminated texts dates back to the year 400, with a sharp increase in popularity during the Middle Ages. The term originally referred to embossing pages with gold leaf, since that material had religious connotations or indicated wealth. Monasteries often created many of the original manuscripts, but then as time went on, private illustrators adopted the craft. Eventually, gold became so commonplace that other materials and colors were used on the parchment, and imagery extended to a wide range of secular topics. Today, 'illuminated' describes a vast variety of documents, so you can likely find books that show many facets of life through the ages.

Whatever your interest in collectible manuscripts, it's easy to find that special gift for someone or something for yourself. Most of these books contain high-quality reproductions of the original illuminated art and enlarge on the extremely interesting stories behind the images. Take a look at the amazing scenes depicted in The Book of Kells: An Illustrated Introduction to the Manuscript in Trinity College Dublin or Treasures of a Lost Art: Italian Manuscript Painting of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Perhaps you're an admirer of early 19th century France, as seen in A Tour Through Paris or the late 1890s whimsy in The Yellow Fairy Book.

When looking to buy manuscripts, you can search through miniature, standard, or oversized books, in multiple languages or translations.They're interesting insights into the humor and imaginings of the times, and as to what inspired artists and writers. Serious collectors interested in original illuminated books and manuscripts will find outstanding tomes at AbeBooks that showcase bound vellum pages of botanical, fauna, and architectural themes.